Rookie paddlers to make waves of their own
KZN canoeists go from river to ocean as they tackle demanding Cape Point Challenge
FROM THE famed Valley of a Thousand Hills to the crashing shores of Cape Point – two young men will today attempt a journey of discovery.
The sporting story of Kwanda Mhlophe, 19, and Richard Cele, 21, began in 2008 when Dusi canoe marathon legend Martin Dreyer made history by winning his seventh title with the race’s first black winner, Michael Mbanjwa.
After years of victories around the globe, Dreyer’s final dream was to nurture disadvantaged young paddlers from KwaZulu-Natal.
He felt that for too long local youths had watched from the banks of the Umzindusi River as thousands of canoeists paddled by, without the chance to participate.
While training with Mbanjwa, prior to winning the Dusi in a record time together, Dreyer realised what potential there was.
With corporate backing, Dreyer launched the Martin Dreyer Change a Life Academy two years ago, and its success has surpassed even his expectations.
On the Dusi 2009 his team achieved two placings in the top 10 and seven in the top 20. This year, his team secured third place, and a victory and third place in the notoriously tough Non-Stop Dusi.
The paddlers in the double canoe that clinched bronze were Mhlophe and Cele.
Fast-forward a few months to another of the world’s most demanding paddling races: the Fenn Cape Point Challenge, now in its 18th year, and organised by Cape paddling champion Peter Cole, who wanted to replicate Dreyer’s transformation on the sea.
The result is that Mhlophe and Cele will today compete in one of the toughest ocean paddling races on earth.
Rounding Cape Point, home of legends such as the ghostly Flying Dutchman sailing ship, is neither for the faint-hearted nor inexperienced. The pair will paddle on two double surfskis, piloted by Cole and fellow ocean warrior Steve Farrell.
“They have never been on the ocean before, but such is their fitness pedigree that I have no question that guided by two experienced paddlers, they will be able to complete the challenge,” Dreyer said.
“The only possible curveball is that one cannot know how they fare with possible sea-sickness.
“But a bonus is that because they haven’t experienced it, they cannot fear it.”
Weekend Argus interviewed the pair yesterday on Fish Hoek beach, where they punched through the surf for a first and final practice.
Mhlophe said: “I’m a little scared of the big waves – it will be my first experience of paddling on the open ocean – but I’m very excited, especially paddling with Peter. Martin’s told us a lot of good things about him, so we’ll be fine.”
Cele said: “Just being here in Cape Town for the first time, my first time on a plane, my first time on the sea …
“There are sharks, so I hope they won’t try to catch us.”
Around 200 paddlers will start the race at Scarborough, facing 50km around the Point to the finish at Fish Hoek.
SALT OF THE OCEAN: KZN paddlers Kwanda Mhlophe and Richard Cele, who are more used to rivers than the ocean, will today attempt to round Cape Point in the Fenn Cape Point Challenge. Yesterday they tasted salt-water paddling for the first time with local surfski aces Peter Cole and Simon van Gysen.